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Title Index
Theme Index
Article Index
Other Resources

  • Latest additions to resource list posted on: April 28, 2008
  • On-line resources are listed first
  • For print resources, click here
  • For listings of events, click here


Articles (full text on-line)
Listings of articles and books
Film review sites

Miscellaneous topics, sites

Articles (full text on-line)

Representations of psychiatric disability in fifty years of Hollywood film: An ethnographic analysis by Lisa Lopez Levers (2001). An exceptional and scholarly study based on analysis of portrayals of the mentally ill in 32 films set in psychiatric hospitals:

Positive Psychiatric Portrayals a Rarity in Hollywood by Christine Lehmann (2002). Lehmann describes the highly popular workshops on psychiatry in film conducted in recent years by psychiatrist Steven Pflanz at APA Annual Meetings and Psychiatric Services Institutes. I have attended two of Dr. Pflanz's workshops, both filled to capacity, and found them excellent. He exhibits brief film clips from mainstream Hollywood movies that all too often show psychiatrists in a bad light, evoking lively audience responses. Dr. Pflanz's point is that these portrayals, because they appear in popular films seen by millions, may wield far more influence in shaping public perceptions of psychiatrists than less popular art films that sometimes show more accurate or thoughtful depictions of our profession at work: http://pn.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/content/full/37/15/10

Listings of articles and books

3rd European Psychoanalytic Film Festival (2005): Bibliography: extensive list of articles and books on psychoanalysis and film to early 2004; citations only: http://www.psychoanalysis.org.uk/epff3/filmbibliography.htm#D

Movies, prepared by the Association of Directors of Medical Student Education in Psychiatry: modest list of around 40 professional journal articles and books about psychiatric themes in film, from 1979 to 1999; citations only, some with links: http://psychclerk.bsd.uchicago.edu/movies.html


Movies and Mental Illness: huge filmography prepared by Susan Nicosia, a social sciences professor. Listings to 2001 by psychiatric theme & title only: http://faculty.dwc.edu/nicosia/moviesandmentalillnessfilmography.htm

Filmography for the Association of Directors of Medical Student Education in Psychiatry: listed are titles of about 100 feature films depicting various psychiatric disorders, prepared by an academic psychiatrist, Dr. Ruth Levine:

Film review sites

Filmography compiled by the New York University Medical Humanities website, on its "Arts, Literature and Medicine Database" page. Titles and synopses are given for more than 100 films, which are also indexed by theme (i.e., by key words such as "abandonment," "depression," "institutions"):

Psychiatry and Films: a recently constructed site maintained by a group of psychiatrists in Britain. They invite postings of reviews from others, on films depicting psychiatric themes; so far only a handful of brief reviews are posted; links are also provided to longer "external" reviews (at other sites) for about 20 films: http://www.psychiatryandfilms.com/index2.html

Miscellaneous topics, sites

Purely for fun: take a personality test (based on the Jungian Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) and find out what film theme best reflects your most cherished persona: http://similarminds.com/movie.html

Stigma: this site, maintained by David Gonzalez, a former mental patient, is devoted to exposing films that stigmatize the mentally ill:








Movie Clips for Creative Mental Health Education by Fritz Engstrom, M.D. Plainview, New York, Wellness Reproductions & Publishing, LLC, 2004 (soft cover, spiral bound, 195 pp., 9” X 11”). Dr. Engstrom, an experienced psychiatrist, psychotherapist and teacher, is medical director at the Brattleboro Retreat in Vermont. For years he has used brief clips from feature films to illustrate mental disorders and their treatment in his teaching of patients, primary care physicians and mental health professionals and trainees. He also teaches a valuable course on the use of film clips in such endeavors at meetings of the American Psychiatric Association, among other venues, and I had the pleasure of taking his course in 2003. In this volume he has now set to print his approach to the use of film in teaching.

Movie Clips has a workbook format. It is meant to be used explicitly as a teaching or learning guide. The material covers the more common psychiatric problems encountered in adults and their treatment. There are sections on diagnoses (various forms of depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, substance abuse and dependence, and personality disorders); life cycle events (bereavement, coming-of-age, family conflict and adult developmental issues); and treatment, with special emphasis on the relationship between psychiatrist (or psychotherapist) and patient.

Short clips (most run from 2 to 6 minutes) are identified from 39 domestic feature films. Think of the clips as “trigger scenes” to spur reflection and discussion. For each topic (e.g., specific mental disorder or treatment issue) the guide offers an illustrative film clip, very precise information to help locate the clip whether using DVD or VHS formatted copies of the film, summaries of the film and the specific scene depicted in the clip, a list of “insight questions” to focus thinking, and a short discursive text that responds to these questions.

The questions and discussion sections seem largely pitched toward persons who do not have strong mental health professional backgrounds and, as written, would be most suitable for patients and their families, medical students, psychiatric residents and other trainees, and non-psychiatric physicians. A more sophisticated spin would be needed to guide discussion when using these clips with seasoned psychiatrists, but this book does give the raw materials for such an enterprise, and I can personally attest that Dr. Engstrom’s method can work quite well with a group of psychiatrists.

The best books on psychiatry in film consider whole films, not clips or specific scenes, and they focus exclusively on clinical disorders (e.g., David Robinson’s Reel Psychiatry) or on the therapeutic relationship and psychotherapy (e.g., Glen & Krin Gabbard’s Psychiatry and the Cinema), but do not attempt to span both domains. It is a strength of Dr. Engstrom’s work that he does address both clinical disorders and the treatment relationship. Viewing an entire film of course gives a richer context for appreciating the dynamics and action of any given scene, and a deeper sense of the clinical problem or treatment relationship. But after 2 hours watching a film, what time is left for meaningful discussion? The virtue of using film clips is the brief time needed to screen a single scene, which nicely serves the priority of group discussion.

While Engstrom's approach is not unique, I know of no other volume besides this one that illustrates the method of using film clips in psychiatric teaching. I recommend it to clinical teachers in all the mental health disciplines as well as to patients, their friends and their families.

Cinemeducation: A Comprehensive Guide to Using Film in Medical Education, edited by Matthew Alexander, Patricia Lenahan and Anna Pavlov, Oxford, U.K., Radcliffe Publishing, 2005 (paper, 247 pp). In a contemporary culture that has increasingly utilized visual media products - film, television, internet images and interactive study courses - for instruction in many fields, it is hardly surprising that films have been incorporated into medical education. This is the theme of Cinemeducation, a work that is chock full of useful, specific information to enable medical educators to access films and brief film clips from them, for teaching purposes. The emphasis is on fictional feature films, and for good reason. Such films in particular are rife with dramatizations of individual psychopathology, responses to adverse events, and human encounters and conflicts, including treatment relationships. At their best, movies can portray behavioral and mental health themes with both realism and emotional punch that engage viewers far more effectively than so-called “educational” films, films that can numb an audience with heavy didacticism. In a word, fictional movies are viewer-friendly. Logistics, confidentiality and cost may also favor use of film instead of real or standardized (actor) patients in many teaching situations.

The book’s editors (two are psychologists, the other a social worker) direct behavioral medicine training programs for family practice residents, to whom the text is specifically addressed, though much of the content in this book is equally appropriate for mental health personnel. After two introductory chapters, 400 film clips from 125 movies are listed. Times are given for locating clips using a time counter on a VCR or DVD player, and questions to trigger post-clip discussion are proposed for each. Films and clips are organized within four broad themes: The individual and family life cycle, adult diagnostic categories, the doctor-patient relationship, and specific populations. Under each theme are chapters devoted to more specific topics, prepared by various authors. For example, for the individual and family life cycle, 7 chapters cover child and adolescent development, adult development, family dynamics, sexuality, chronic illness, geriatrics, and end of life issues.

The adult diagnostic categories address specific mental disorders: PTSD, anxiety and depression, chemical dependency, family violence, schizophrenia and bipolar disorders, personality and dissociative disorders, and eating disorders. One can always find details of particular entries to quarrel about in a lengthy filmography like this one. For example, the alcoholic protagonist in “Leaving Las Vegas” was certainly aware of his suicidal bent, contrary to what is suggested here (p. 139). The depiction of visual hallucinations in “A Beautiful Mind” bears almost no resemblance to the actual visual experiences reported by schizophrenic patients (p.106). One problem with clips is that, when taken out of context, they may inadequately or wrongly depict clinical subtleties that are best appreciated by viewing the entire film. Obviously teachers always need to preview films and clips for clinical and narrative authenticity.

Several recent books survey feature films of value for mental health education (citations for others are given below). Each has its strengths and weaknesses. The strength of Cinemeducation is its extensive clip listings and excellent organization of these according to a broad array of topics. Engstrom’s book gives far more detailed lesson plans for use with film clips, but covers fewer topics and films. The classic by the Gabbards focuses exclusively on psychotherapists, while Robinson lists films covering most of the disorders in DSM-IV, but doesn’t address treatment. Wedding et al. also primarily emphasize film illustrations of mental disorders, and they provide the most complete discussions of topics illustrated by the films. Cinemeducation should, with these others, find a place on the shelf of any educator who wants to use feature films in teaching mental health themes.

-Engstrom F: Movie Clips for Creative Mental Health Education, Plainview NY,
Wellness Reproductions and Publishing, 2004, 195 pp (paper)
-Gabbard GO, Gabbard K: Psychiatry and the Cinema, 2nd ed., Washington DC, American Psychiatric Press, 1999, 408 pp. (paper)
-Robinson DJ: Reel Psychiatry: Movie Portrayals of Psychiatric Conditions, Port Huron MI, Rapid Psychler Press, 2003, 340 pp. (paper)
-Wedding D, Boyd MA, Niemiec, RM: Movies and Mental Illness: Using Films to Understand Psychopathology, 2nd ed., Cambridge MA, Hogrefe and Huber publishers, 258 pp. (paper)

(review prepared August, 2005, for the journal, Psychiatric Services)




Annual Festivals

"Rendezvous with Madness" Film Festival, Toronto, Canada: Now in its 15th year, this festival is sponsored by the Workman Theatre Project, which "promotes a greater understanding of mental health and addiction issues through various artistic media and supports people who receive mental health and addiction services in their artistic pursuits." The 2008 festival runs from November 6 to 15. The program will be posted at: http://www.rendezvouswithmadness.com/

"Frames of Mind" Mental Health Film Festival, Vancouver B.C., Canada: Sponsored by the Department of Psychiatry, University of British Columbia, and the Pacific Cinematheque Theatre in downtown Vancouver. The 5th annual (2008) festival runs from Thursday evening, May 8, through Sunday evening, May 11. Program postings now at: http://www.psychiatry.ubc.ca/teaching/CME/film/filmfest.htm


Other Events

American Psychiatric Association Annual Meetings (each May) and Institutes on Psychiatric Services (each October): These annual meetings almost always offer a course or workshop or two on psychiatric themes in film. Watch for activities led by psychiatrists such as Fredrick (Fritz) Engstrom, Steven Hyler, Steven Pflantz, and others.